Engineering Innovation

Cashless Tolls Improve Traffic Flow on NYC Bridges and Tunnels

“Cashless” toll bridges and tunnels are making trips in-and-out of New York City faster and more convenient … and the technology is available to all vehicles.

cashless tolls, NYC bridges tunnels, Hugh L Carey tunnel

2016 WSP USA

The Hugh L. Carey Tunnel now features a cashless toll system that identifies vehicles as they pass underneath the gantry.

WSP is assisting the MTA Bridges and Tunnels with the implementation of cashless tolling, also known as open-road tolling. It is part of New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s New York Crossings Project, which will introduce cashless tolling at all MTA tolled crossings. WSP is responsible for the design of several implementation projects.

New York’s roads are some of the most congested in the nation, with commutes from Long Island, White Plains, and Northern and Southern New Jersey averaging upwards of two hours. On average, 800,000 vehicles cross MTA bridges and tunnels each day.

“The cashless tolling system works with a driver’s E-ZPass account, which is charged automatically when the vehicle passes under the gantry,” said Michael Mangione, project director for WSP. “But non-E-ZPass vehicles also benefit from the convenience of the new system through the use of a combination of video imagery and electronic collection.”

Cameras suspended on the gantries above the passing vehicles capture images of license plates on non-E-ZPass vehicles, and a bill is then mailed to the registered owner of the vehicle. Motorists who use the MTA E-ZPass are charged automatically when passing through the gantry and receive a significant discount on their toll.

“It’s seamless,” Mangione said of the new system. “Other than the new gantries, motorists won’t notice much difference in their drives.”

First in Service

WSP, as part of a joint venture with AECOM, worked on the MTA’s first cashless toll operation at the Henry Hudson Bridge, which connects the Bronx with Manhattan. The bridge’s cashless tolling system is now fully operational, with all old toll booths removed.

cashless tolls, NYC bridges tunnels, Gantry Queens Midtown tunnel

2016 WSP

A gantry is installed for the cashless tolling system at the Queens Midtown Tunnel entrance. The electronic toll collection works whether or not a vehicle is equipped with an E-ZPass transponder.

“The feedback we have received about the project has been positive,” Mangione said. “The improvements on traffic flow and tolling systems have all been performing as expected.”

Cashless tolling at the Henry Hudson Bridge is part of a larger rehabilitation project involving the reconstruction of the existing plazas and southbound bridge approaches.

Construction of cashless tolling at the Queens Midtown Tunnel and the Hugh L. Carey (formerly Brooklyn-Battery) Tunnel was recently completed. “Cashless toll collection for both tunnels began in January,” Mangione said. “The remaining tasks at those locations include the removal of the old toll plazas and booths.”

The next targets for the cashless tolling system are the Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge and Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge, followed by the Robert F. Kennedy (RFK) Triborough Bridge, which are scheduled to begin service later in 2017. WSP is providing the civil, structural, electrical and design engineering for those projects.

Quick Turnaround

One of the biggest successes of the project was the speed in which the new facilities were developed to meet the requirements of the client.

cashless tolls, NYC bridges tunnels, Michael Mangione

Michael Mangione

“We had fast-track schedules, and were able to take the implementation of a system from concept to implementation in less than six months,” Mangione said.

He said collaboration among various members of the project team was key to helping MTA achieve its goal of making the entire agency cashless within the next 18 months.

“All of the entities just wiped away any preconceived notions about how we work as individuals, and instead worked as a team on every aspect of the project, from planning, design, construction and implementation,” he said. It was a success because all of these firms worked as one team, and were always available to each other.”

WSP has provided “a strong, dedicated team that has delivered for the client,” and Mangione said he and his team are proud of their achievements. He views this as an area where the firm will look to grow in the future as other locations around the U.S. look to introduce this technology.

“It’s exciting to be involved in a project like this; one that is creating a major change to something that has been a part of New York City’s landscape for decades,” Mangione said. “In a short amount of time we have been able to change the system for the better.

This is signaling a big change in the way the industry is operating.”

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